This year has been really sad and heavy. I have found myself not realizing how soon Christmas is approaching because I just haven’t been in the Christmas spirit, and I’ve heard many others share similar sentiments this season. I think many of us are feeling weary. We are grieving the ways this year has not and will not look the same as the last, we are grieving loved ones, we are grieving the days we didn’t think about germs every few minutes. As I reflected on the paradox of sorrow in a season normally marked by joy, the song “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” came to mind, and the lyrics seemed to linger in the air:
Come to Earth to taste our sadness,
He whose glories knew no end;
By his life He brings us gladness
Our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend.
Advent is a season of the church calendar in which we look back on a Savior who came as a baby and cried newborn tears in order to rescue us; it is also a reminder that we are again awaiting His return. Advent is a profound way to see our sadness and our sorrow through Jesus’s own tear-stained eyes. This is precisely why he came– to clear the path toward a kingdom where there are no more tears (Revelation 21:4)! While on earth, Jesus was the Man of Sorrows, and therefore we know that we serve a God akin to our deep anguish.
A Savior Who Knows our Tears
God came to rescue us, but He also came to understand. What a unique treasure we have! We serve a savior who has tasted our sadness and pain and joy. He knows how those intermingle, how unwelcome despair lingers, and how hope often feels like a distant dream. Isaiah 53 says,
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. – Isaiah 53:3-4
This has major implications for us. When we are overcome with grief, we can bring that to Christ knowing that He has tasted it himself. He walked this world with all its distinct struggles and blessings for many years. We serve a savior who understands. What beautiful news!
A Savior Who Has Shed His Own Tears
Jesus came to Earth and cried many tears Himself. Our hope came through the loud, helpless cry of an infant piercing the night. What an instant taste of sadness, a loss of the comfort of the womb. It is an image of the sacrifice He made by leaving Heaven to come to us. Toddler Jesus scraped his knee and cried in His mother’s arms.
To further display His human emotion, we have the account of the story where He wept over the death of His dear friend, Lazarus. This verse has become a bit of a joke, but it is one of the most profound things that the Bible tells us: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). God did not send His son to live a life of total ease and happiness. He was well acquainted with grief and sorrow. He found it necessary to tell us in His Word that He wept on this Earth. Christ’s eyes have known what it is to well up with salty tears. He is that familiar with our sorrow and pain.
A Savior Who Helps Us Understand our Own Tears
However, Advent is not only the good news that we serve a God who has wept with us, Advent also shows us why our sadness feels so poignant and real. I wonder if this has ever been more true of us than this year. This pandemic has our souls often screaming, “This is not how it’s supposed to be!” How profound! That our hearts are already akin to our forever home. We were not made for this Earth, we were made for heaven, for the world to be made whole and new. Because of this, when we live in the ruins of our earthly home, we ache often. Imagine walking around the ruins of your childhood home. It would have moments that distinctly reminded you of home, and yet would be so different from what you know that it brought you deep pain.
This world has real pain and loss and loneliness and despair. And we understand that more deeply when we realize that we are waiting for all things to be made new. That is what we are waiting for always, and Advent reminds us of that. Just as we wait for Christmas Day, we wait with baited breath for the day of Christ’s return. Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
A Savior Who Wipes Our Tears
The beautiful thing about Advent on this side of Jesus’s life on Earth is that we know for certain that God is faithful to keep His promises. Christmas is the good news of promises kept. Knowing this truth, this life of Advent is awaiting something that we can be sure will come true. And what has He promised? That He will dwell with us forever, that death will die, that He will make everything new, and wipe every tear from our eyes. We know this from Revelation 21:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” – Revelation 21:1-6
Our tears are so real and so sad on this side of Heaven. But one day, God will be so close to us, so near to us, that He will wipe the tears from our eyes. What a rich, tender image of the intimacy we will have with God forever and ever. What if we viewed our sorrow holding these in tension: that our sorrow has been felt deeply by Christ, and that our tears will be wiped away with His very hands one day.
Advent is a reminder of the narratives of our tears. Jesus wept, we weep now, and He is coming back to wipe our tears with His hands that once were tiny infant hands clinging to His own mother. The sad things are coming untrue. All will be made new. He is coming soon.